Remarks of U.S. Rep Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., before the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee
Chairman Cardin, Ranking Member Boozman, I appreciate your affording me and my fellow West Virginians this opportunity to testify today.
The recent chemical spill in our State has caused not only much well-founded concern, but also deeply felt anxiety. Factual information, in the wake of that spill, is critical to us.
So I think it is proper that Congress conduct hearings to understand the facts as well as the limits of Congressional action before rushing into legislating.
On the day of the spill, when State authorities arrived at the Freedom Industries site, they encountered a company that was either unaware of the leaking chemical, or unwilling to admit they had a problem.
When told to follow protocol and report the leak, the company dragged its feet, and, when it finally did report it, company officials mischaracterized the seriousness of the situation and the threat it posed.
Certainly, the Congress can require a better understanding of the risks of chemicals. It can help States improve emergency response and preparedness. But I am not sure that Congress can ever legislate away the irresponsibility and disregard for public welfare recently exhibited by Freedom Industries.
West Virginians do care about the health and safety of our families and neighbors. Our State legislature is already working on bills to fix legal loopholes, and regulate chemical storage tanks. But legislation alone will not repair the damage done to the public’s trust in the policies and oversight at all levels that they feel let them down.
To so many in my State, for example, the EPA has become “the agency of no” -- an agency that only tells us what cannot be done, rather than helping us discern how we can do those things we need to do, better. We are poorly served as a result.
My hope is that the Federal government, rather than acting from on high and imposing broad solutions, will listen to our concerns and tailor the response accordingly.
So I ask that this Committee work with me and my own Committee to find a better way not only to protect our people, but also to ensure a Federal-State partnership on which the effectiveness of any new legislated protections will depend.
Again, I thank you for this opportunity to be heard.